When researching with Google, there are over 350,000,000 matches for leading, 150,000,000 for managing, and 31,000,000 for buddies. So, no, this blog is not the most original item you’ll find. However, it’s a good reminder, a learning experience that I’ve had, and possibly something that will be familiar to some of you out there.
At 23, I found myself as one of the youngest managers in a particular retail establishment. My competition for the job was not very deep as it wasn’t the most desirable position and you had to have unique skills to be considered. I wowed the district manager with my ideas for marketing and organization. I eagerly proposed an outline to better sales and make more efficient employees. I got the job with little to no experience in managing, thinking that it would be a breeze. As many of you probably know, it’s not a breeze, by any means.
However, that has not been the most difficult challenge for me when it comes to leading. Many things are predictable in an established environment with the basic business model. More marketing = more money. Rewards = happier employees. Etcetera.
The challenge is figuring out how to work with people that don’t necessarily want to be managed and drawing the line between friendship and business relationship. Hence leading becomes the operative word, and possibly why it comes up with the most hits on Google.
I learned that you can’t be best friends with your employees (they probably resent any effort you make to become buddies). I learned that just asking someone to do something usually isn’t enough (they probably question your every motive). You must inspire people. Leading is about pushing people in the right direction, producing positive teamwork, and giving your team the tools to become better at what they do.
But wait, that’s not all, the most challenging leadership has been (wait for it…) being the captain of a team. That’s right, I’m bringing it back to roller derby. This situation is a little different. Your team is not getting paid to work for you. This is not your regular business model. You do actually want to be friends with the people you skate with, and you also have to implement some of the same ideas you do in your everyday leadership position. You can inspire people with your ability to skate, but how do you inspire them to work together, to find a common goal, to put aside that female pride and let someone lead?
Well, it’s tough. But you can only learn by trial and error (and picking up a few books like Attitude 101, Teamwork 101, and The Everything Leadership Book). I get inspired regularly by watching other people and learning about leadership. So, I hope to find that this 2010 season will be the best leading I’ve done so far. Not managing, while still making best buddies, and inspiring a group of very different women to come together and make something wonderful happen. Something like winning a championship with hard work, dedication, and fun!